The iPad and Professional Photographers and Artists

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been looking to start my own creative firm. My idea is pretty simple, or at least, I thought it was. I wanted to have a firm to myself, where the creative work is placed ahead of the agency’s financial needs, that served as a playground for me to exercise my ideas while looking for full-time work as I leave university. The problem is, I’ve been stuck on a name.

Because I’ve been stuck on a name, I’ve had lots of time to figure out how to integrate the tools I already have into the studio. My iPad is a big priority: To me, I see it as a tool to show clients what it is they’re paying me for. And I’ve found some great apps that I think are going to be really useful for any photographer or artist/designer. These apps aren’t going to help you replace your laptop or desktop in your workflow, but they might help you when you’re on the go, or more importantly, when you’re working with a client.

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A Photographer’s Portfolio

The iPad is already a great tool for photography, before any extras are even added to it. A few weeks ago, I did an engagement shoot. I took the couple out to a park they frequented on dates in university, and the only thing I brought with me outside of my camera gear was my iPad.

I did the shoot and popped the iPad Camera Connection Kit into my third-generation iPad’s older thirty-pin connector (if you have a fourth-generation iPad or an iPad mini and want to do this, check out the Lightning to SD Card Reader). The RAW photos took a few minutes to load up on the iPad — just long enough to grab a drink — but the couple loved flipping and pinching and swiping on the iPad’s glass display to take a look at what they just experienced. And even though they knew there was lots of work to still be done, they liked having the immediate results of the big screen.

I use the stock Photos app on the iPad to show off photos like this to my clients.

I use the stock Photos app on the iPad to show off photos like this to my clients.

My point is simple: The stock Photos app is actually a pretty good experience on the iPad. It’s very intuitive and it’s a piece of cake for clients to use, which makes it a really good portfolio tool. It’s easy for me to have photos prepared so that when I meet prospective clients, I can bring my iPad along and they can just swipe through pictures. The only problem with the app is that there’s no way to have a user profile for work and a user profile for play, so clients will invariably end up looking at other (much) less glamorous photos I’ve taken when I’m out and about with family or friends.

Photo Editing

You might be thinking that you have an interest in editing photos on the iPad as well. In that case, there’s some discrepancies here between what an iPad can do and what a computer is capable of. Currently, I don’t know any good iPad apps that can edit RAW photography — although I look forward to checking them out one day. iPhoto is nice, but it’s limited in its capabilities and it’s hardly a stand-in for Aperture or Lightroom. Snapseed is another popular favourite, but I think it’s not even as powerful as iPhoto.

iPhoto for iPad is very reminiscent of Lightroom.

iPhoto for iPad is very reminiscent of Lightroom.

There are other photo editors available for the iPad, but I don’t think that any of them are quite up to par. None of them can edit RAW, and since that’s the format myself and almost every other professional photographer I know edit in, I think that’s a stepping stone that should be overcome first before we get too serious about going into any other directions.

Snapseed has a lot of mystery meat, or difficult-to-remember gestures, which I think is a huge flaw.

Snapseed has a lot of mystery meat, or difficult-to-remember gestures, which I think is a huge flaw.

I don’t think the iPad is at the point where there is a truly great photo editing app for professionals. I know, I know, I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for just coming out and saying it, but it’s not my fault. I’m just a writer; I can’t create miracles. AppStorm will be the first to let you know when you’re able to ditch your RAW editing workflow on your Mac or PC and use your iPad exclusively.

Final note: I’m of the belief that we shouldn’t be using our iPads to take photos, and certainly not professionally. Don’t do it.

Creating Art

I guess it makes sense that drawing on a glass display like the iPad is kind of a shoe-in, obvious thing to do. But a lot of people seem to be taken to it. I’ve read countless articles about real-world artists who are doing a lot of creative work on iPads now, like this piece on David Hockney, of all people.

I might not be the person to ask, in this case, because I’m not a professional artist. But I’ve seen a ton of apps meant for the task, and I’ve used a few for my own purposes. I think it comes down to three great ones that I’d like to highlight.

The first is Photoshop Touch. It’s both an illustration app and a photography editing app, which I think is useful. But because it does both, I don’t think it excels at either of them. It’s certainly no replacement for the pirated version of Photoshop you have sitting on your desktop (that’s a joke; I’m not spying on your computer). But it’s admirable because, unlike Photoshop itself normally, the app is fairly intuitive — or so the reviews say. It’s a little bit on the pricier side for what it is, but some people might like the familiarity of it. It also comes with a free Creative Cloud membership that lets you share files across multiple devices — and that could come in handy.

Photoshop Touch's somewhat-cluttered, but useable interface. Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Photoshop Touch’s somewhat-cluttered, but useable interface. Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

I’m a particularly big fan of Sketchbook Pro, an app meant exclusively for drawing. This is an app that goes far beyond my actual needs, but it’s something that’s made the rounds with all of my Art major friends and it’s a lot of fun to play with. It’s also birthed some of the most astounding artwork I’ve ever seen from an iPad. One of the best features about Sketchbook Pro is its iCloud functionality, allowing you to seamlessly and automatically save documents between the Mac and iPad versions of the app. Sketchbook can even export your photos in layers for use in Photoshop down the line.

Sketchbook and Photoshop Touch are both, to my knowledge, really expanding the fields of digital art. From what everybody I know working in that sector tells me, these apps are changing the way a lot of illustrators work. It’s tremendously powerful that these apps are changing lives the way they do, but I think there’s room for another category here.


For me, Paper hits all the right notes. I don’t know if it’s because it was the first app of its kind to hit the scenes that I downloaded it or if it’s because it’s free with in-app purchases, but I went bananas for this thing. Today, it’s one of my favourite iPad apps.

Paper is where I quickly sketch out any ad ideas I have, like this one. Surprisingly, despite its quaint napkin-like appeal, they loved it!

Paper is where I quickly sketch out any ad ideas I have, like this one. Surprisingly, despite its quaint napkin-like appeal, they loved it!

There’s a couple of reasons why it works so well, but it’s not my job to review it — I’m just going to explain why it’s so useful.

First of all, it doesn’t feel all-powerful. This is an app with clear limitations in power, and it’s obvious from the get-go. Nobody I know who’s ever seen Paper expects magic from it, but they can recognize that it’s like a quick napkin for creative ideas and they gravitate to it.

But because it’s a quick and easy way to create things, it’s also very easy to impress people with it. I draw most marketing campaigns out in sketches in Paper, and clients are always happy with the results. It’s a high-resolution, crystal-clear and simple way to show off what’s coming to them. They love it.

The Future

There isn’t enough space in a single article to talk about all the potential uses for iPads and creative artists and photographers. In fact, this is one of those subjects that’s bound to get a lot of interest from people with with their own unique setups. Leave a comment and let us know what apps you’re using to get this work done.

The iPad is still a very young invention, and to be fair, I can imagine some potent apps being released for tasks like this in the next few years. What do you think is coming next? What do you wish the iPad could do for you as an artist or photographer that it can’t do now?